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Roundtable 1 Discussion Summary
State Agencies Administering WtW Vouchers
(Teleconference Roundtable held August 15, 2002)

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 Information by State
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 -   Teleconference Participants
 -   State Agency Challenges and Tips for Success
 -   Requests for HUD

Teleconference Participants

(Five of Eight State Agencies Participating -- see Profile of State Agencies for more information about the eight state agencies administering WTW vouchers.)
  • Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC)
  • Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS)
  • Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (MDHCD)
  • Michigan State Housing Development Agency (MSHDA)
  • Virginia Housing Development Agency (VHDA)

State Agency Challenges and Tips for Success

Leasing

Challenges:

  • High turnover rates. AHFC, in particular, reports high turnover rates and is taking action to improve the situation. In Alaska, approximately 45 percent of total vouchers leased have turned over. AHFC estimates that about 61 percent of that turnover results from negative events, such as failure to meet Section 8 requirements or abandonment of unit.

  • Leasing-up 100 percent of units (and maintaining 100 percent utilization) while simultaneously running other aspects of the program, such as case management, tracking and monitoring, and maintaining partnerships. MDHCD noted that this is particularly challenging in a state that has both a tight job market and housing market.

Tips for Success:

  • Analyze turnover to understand the various reasons (positive and negative) that families leave the program, as the first step in attempting to address this issue. AHFC has modified its selection criteria in an attempt to address this issue.

  • Having clear, written policies and procedures covering all aspects of the WtW program in place for staff and contractors to rely on ultimately helps an agency to lease more quickly and stay leased.

Administrative

Challenges:

  • Staff turnover. Staff turnover often means that the WtW program is "put on the back burner," hindering an agency's ability to run a high-performing program.

  • Converting to a new housing software program and resolving PIC/MTCS transmission issues.

  • Centralized versus decentralized management of the WtW voucher program. VHDA noted that it is the only state agency that allows its contracting agencies to develop individual policies related to selection criteria, family obligations, etc.

Tips for Success:

  • Get the most out of your partnerships. AHFC is finalizing a revised MOU with its TANF partner. The role of the TANF Agency in implementing the program has changed significantly since the program's inception, and the MOU has been revised to reflect this.

  • Maintain a high level of coordination. MDHCD requires that contracting agencies report monthly. CDHS is trying to establish standardized processes and a uniform tracking system for its seven partners.

Monitoring and Tracking

Challenges:

  • Tracking participant status when an agency covers a broad geographic area and relies on contractors or regional offices to administer the program. CDHS partners with 7 different organizations to provide services to their WtW clients. The agency wants to develop a method for uniform tracking among the different organizations.

  • Measuring success of participants and of the program as a whole.

Tips for Success:

  • Request monthly updates from all contracting agencies/regional offices. Establish a standard set of data to collect each month, so that trends and progress can be determined. MDHCD requires its contracting agencies to report the following information monthly: leasing data, including the number of new lease-ups and terminations; status of all WtW participants, including whether they are working, searching for employment, participating in job training, or not in compliance; number of families participating in FSS; and size of their waiting list.

  • Place some of the burden for monitoring and tracking directly on the WtW families themselves. MDHCD asks recipients to "self-report" either monthly or quarterly on their progress. The contracting agency mails forms out to all recipients and then asks that the forms be completed and returned. If forms are not returned, the agency begins sending a series of warning letters (of increasing severity) to individuals that are not in compliance with program requirements or who fail to self-report.

Family Obligations/Work Requirements

Challenges:

  • Establishing and fully implementing standardized processes and procedures for monitoring adherence to WtW family obligations and enforcing such obligations.

  • Enforcing work requirements/WtW Contract of Participation in such a way that encourages families to obtain and retain employment. Agencies are seeing high rates of job-turnover among participants and are looking for ways to support families that lose jobs.

Tips for Success:

  • Make sure that participants know before receiving a WtW voucher that WORK is required to keep their assistance, and continue to remind them of the importance of obtaining and retaining employment. MDHCD emphasizes work requirements prior to issuance, during the briefing, and at every re-exam. In addition, the self-reporting mentioned above reinforces the work requirements.

  • Provide enough time for participants to get prepared for work, search for work, and finally obtain work. AHFC's WtW program is structured such that work requirements gradually increase over time in order to allow participants plenty of opportunity to succeed at meeting their work requirements. At the participants' first annual re-exam, the voucher recipient is not expected to be working full-time but to be, at a minimum, participating in some type of job training. At each re-exam thereafter the work expectations gradually increase and culminate into retaining full-time employment.

Case Management and FSS

Challenges:

  • Expanding FSS so more WtW families can participate. Some agencies lack the resources to hire the additional case managers/FSS Coordinators that would be needed to support an expanded program.

  • Families "falling through the cracks" due to inadequate case management. The concern is that there are families in need of case management that are not being serviced by the TANF agency or through FSS. The number of families not being serviced by TANF agencies will continue to grow. AHFC suggested that there may be a connection between families leaving the program for negative reasons and families not receiving adequate case management and support.

Tips for Success:

  • Support families at the onset of their participation in the program. AHFC is beginning to send its TANF partner the names of the families selected to receive a WtW voucher. This allows the TANF agency to contact these families to see if they need childcare, transportation, or other assistance.

  • Use former FSS participants with FSS success stories to sell the FSS program to WtW voucher families. Their endorsement of the program is far more effective than flyers or other marketing.

Requests for HUD

  • Provide guidance as to how WtW staff should define "willful and persistent," "success," and "graduation." A discussion followed regarding the need for each agency to clearly define what these terms mean to its program. The definitions will likely vary from agency to agency and should be clearly stated by each agency in writing.

  • Provide training program, policy manual, etc. that presents program basics for WtW Coordinators.

  • Communicate the goals of the WtW program to managers at the highest levels of partner organizations, such as state TANF agencies. Clarify HUD's expectations of agencies that partner with a PHA to administer a WtW voucher program.

  • Agencies that have received significant support from their TANF partner, including funds to support the program, believe that their programs would not be successful without such support. What can HUD do to help ensure continued support for the program by TANF agencies?
 
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